Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Eine florentinische Tragödie and I pagliacci in Monte-Carlo

An evening of strange-bedfellow one-acts in high-concept stagings, mindbogglingly delightful.

Carmen, Pacific Symphony

On February 19, 2015, Pacific Symphony presented its annual performance of a semi-staged opera. This year’s presentation at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California, featured Georges Bizet’s Carmen. Director Dean Anthony used the front of the stage and a few solid set pieces by Scenic Designer Matt Scarpino to depict the opera’s various scenes.

The Mastersingers of Nuremberg, ENO

Although the English National Opera has been decidedly sparing with its Wagner for quite some time now, its recent track record, leaving aside a disastrous Ring, has perhaps been better than that at Covent Garden.

San Diego Opera presents an excellent Don Giovanni

On Friday February 20, 2015, San Diego Opera presented Mozart’s Don Giovanni in a production by Nicholas Muni originally seen at Cincinnati Opera.

Tosca at Chicago Lyric

In a production first seen in Houston several years ago, and now revised by its director John Caird, Puccini’s Tosca has returned to Lyric Opera of Chicago with two casts, partially different, scheduled into March of the present season.

Henri Dutilleux: Correspondances

Henri Dutilleux’s music has its devotees. I am yet to join their ranks, but had no reason to think this was not an admirable performance of his song-cycle Correspondances.

LA Opera Revives The Ghosts of Versailles

In 1980, the Metropolitan Opera commissioned composer John Corigliano to write an opera celebrating the company’s one-hundredth anniversary. It was to be ready in 1983.

La Traviata, ENO

English National Opera’s revival of Peter Konwitschny’s production of Verdi’s La Traviata had many elements in common with the production’s original outing in 2013 (The production was a co-production with Opera Graz, where it had debuted in 2011).

Idomeneo in Lyon

You might believe you could go to an opera and take in what you see at face value. But if you did that just now in Lyon you would have had no idea what was going on.

Der fliegende Holländer, Royal Opera

I wonder whether we need a new way of thinking — and talking — about operatic ‘revivals’. Perhaps the term is more meaningful when it comes to works that have been dead and buried for years, before being rediscovered by subsequent generations.

Iphigénie en Tauride in Geneva

Hopefully this brilliant new production of Iphigénie en Tauride from the Grand Théâtre de Genève will find its way to the new world now that Gluck’s masterpiece has been introduced to American audiences.

Tristan et Isolde in Toulouse

Tristan first appeared on the stage of the Théâtre du Capitole in 1928, sung in French, the same language that served its 1942 production even with Wehrmacht tanks parked in front of the opera house.

Arizona Opera presents Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin

Arizona Opera presented Eugene Onegin during and 1999-2000 season and again on February 1 of this year as part of the 2014-2015 season. In this country Onegin is not a crowd pleaser like La Bohème or Carmen, but its story is believable and its music melodic and memorable. Just hum the beginning of the “Polonaise” and your friends will know the music, if not where it comes from.

Ernst Krenek: Reisebuch aus den österreichischen Alpen, Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall

Florian Boesch and Roger Vignoles at the Wigmore Hall in Ernst Krenek’s Reisebuch aus den österreichischen Alpen. Matthias Goerne has called Hanns Eisler’s Hollywooder Liederbuch the Winterreise of the 20th century. Boesch and Vignoles showed how Krenek’s Reisebuch is a journey of discovery into identity at an era of extreme social change. It is a parable, indeed, of modern times.

Anna Bolena at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s new Anna Bolena, a production shared with Minnesota Opera, features a distinguished cast including several notable premieres.

San Diego Celebrates 50th Year with La Bohème

On Tuesday January 27, 2015, San Diego Opera presented Giacomo Puccini's La Boheme. It is the opera with which the company opened in 1965 and a work that the company has faithfully performed every five years since then.

English Pocket Opera Company: Verdi’s Macbeth

Last year we tracked Orfeo on his desperate search for his lost Euridice, through the labyrinths and studio spaces of Central St Martin’s; this year we were plunged into Macbeth’s tragic pursuit of power in the bare blackness of the CSM’s Platform Theatre.

Béla Bartók: Duke Bluebeard’s Castle

Béla Bartók’s only opera, Duke Bluebeard’s Castle, composed in 1911 and based upon a libretto by the Hungarian writer Béla Balázs, was not initially a success.

Katia Kabanova in Toulon

Káťa Kabanová is, they say, Janáček's first mature opera — it comes a mere 20 years after his masterpiece, Jenůfa.

Peter Grimes in Nice

Nice’s golden winter light is not that of England’s North Sea coast. Nonetheless the Opéra de Nice’s new production of Peter Grimes did much to take us there.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Stefania Dovhan as Adina and Meredith Lustig as Giannetta [Photo by Carol Rosegg courtesy of New York City Opera]
04 Apr 2011

L’Elisir d’Amore

Donizetti described to his father the premiere cast of L’Elisir in terms of lukewarm praise—the tenor only “passable” the soprano’s voice “pretty” and the bass “a little hammy.”

L’Elisir d’Amore

Adina: Stefania Dovhan; Giannetta: Meredith Lustig; Nemorino: David Lomeli; Belcore: José Adán Pérez; Dulcamara: Marco Nisticò. Brad Cohen, Conductor. Jonathan Miller, Production Designer. Isabella Bywater, Set/Costume Designer. New York City Opera, March 26, 2011.

Above: Stefania Dovhan as Adina and Meredith Lustig as Giannetta

All photos by Carol Rosegg courtesy of New York City Opera

 

(Doubtful, though, is Emilia Branca’s tale that Donizetti complained of a Dulcamara with a “voice like a goat.”) Notwithstanding the shortcomings of the singers, the score won the day.

Could it have been otherwise? L’Elisir is so ingenious, so bubbly, so amusing—and at the same time so moving and heartfelt—that it proved a huge and instantaneous success. It charged confidently into the international repertory and never lost steam. Nearly two centuries later, it’s still almost impossible to botch L’Elisir beyond redemption. And so it is with New York City Opera’s production: carried by Donizetti’s brilliant music, Romani’s witty and singable verses, an attractive production, and a much more than “passable” tenor, the performance I attended delighted even as it disappointed.

To a modern audience, the American Southwest during the 1950s seems a remote and idyllic time, and Jonathan Miller’s 2006 production therefore neatly fit the spirit of the piece; every detail was skillfully thought out and Isabella Bywater’s sets and costumes were a delight. The locus is Adina’s Diner, the gathering place of choice for a desert community near a military base. Dulcamara rolls up to the gas pumps in a vintage hotrod, sporting spectator shoes; Nemorino wears mechanics togs; the chorus consists of greasers, fry cooks, soldiers and women in poodle-skirts and cat-eyed glasses. Adina is a sort of Marilyn Monroe, Giannetta a less prominent Maureen O’Hara. Belcore struts around in a Marine uniform and indulges in Elvis-like pelvic gyrations.

The direction of this revival left much to be desired, and seemed motivated more by a desire for cheap laughs than by an understanding and appreciation of the text. As Donizetti’s biographer William Ashbrook observed, the most groundbreaking feature of L’Elisir is that it is not mere slapstick, and its lieto fine occurs because Adina realizes Nemorino’s true goodness and sincerity; L’Elisir succeeds because there is real emotional depth here.

With all this in mind, let it be admitted that Nemorino is not the sharpest knife in the drawer; but for Romani he is a gullible, uneducated country lad with a big heart. In the Miller production he is painted as borderline developmentally disabled. He claps gleefully, jogs in place, bats imaginary balls and jumps up and down as if he were five years old, much of the time wearing a dopey expression. In line with disturbing current trends, excessive stage action often interferes with some of the most important musical and dramatic moments. During Adina’s solo in “Chiedi all’aura lusinghiera,” Nemorino unwittingly spills salt, tossing handfuls around as Adina tries frantically to clean it up. During her duet with Dulcamara (dramatically the turning point of the opera), Adina reaches so deeply into his pocket that his expression plainly tells us where her hand has wandered. In the women’s chorus that begins Act II, a toilet flushes as they stand in line waiting for the restroom, provoking a few nervous scatological giggles; later Nemorino, sickened by his excessive consumption of the “elixir,” runs to the same bathroom to be sick.

Elixir0040.pngStefania Dovhan as Adina and David Lomelí as Nemorino

This is all a shame, but even this cloud of directorial dust, tenor David Lomeli was able to show Nemorino’s passionate nature, his innocence and his vulnerability. Indeed, only his artistry raised the afternoon out of vocal mediocrity. Lomeli never lost sight of what makes Nemorino such a sympathetic character, even as he acted the fool. He sang a wistful “Quanto e bella,” and his impassioned solo passage, “Adina, credimi,” in the first act finale tugged at the heartstrings. An achingly tender, beautifully shaped “Una furtiva lagrima” earned him the loudest cheers of the evening. Lomeli has a lovely, light voice with varying colors and a good sense of how to use dynamic shading; there is a beautiful, genuine Italianate squillo there too. He warmed up quickly after a slightly underpowered start, and hit his stride with full confidence by the time of his duet with Dulcamara.

As Adina, Stefania Dovhan was less than ideal casting. She is physically very attractive, and the voice is intermittently beautiful and expressive, but on the whole it is too harsh and inflexible for the role. Her voice doesn’t have much color; her acuti, while on pitch, were rather grating, and she does not handle coloratura cleanly. Though there were isolated moments of real feeling, for the most part it was a flat, rather riskless portrayal; the shift from fickle and vindictive vixen to loving fiancée was a bit too abrupt and not very convincing.

Elixir0043.pngStefania Dovhan as Adina and Marco Nisticò as Dulcamara

As for José Adán Pérez’s Belcore and Marco Nisticò’s Dulcamara, all their comic silent-movie face-pulling and pelvic thrusts couldn’t hide the fact that they sounded vocally undernourished and fudged the coloratura. In his duet with Lomeli, Nisticò’s vocal line drowned beneath his partner’s. Brad Cohen conducted a brisk if at times somewhat hurried performance. The orchestra sounded marvelous but for one horn mishap. The chorus was well-rehearsed and in fine form.

Daniel Foley

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):